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There was a very popular book in the early 1970s called Supernature, by Lyall Watson. It documented uncanny natural phenomena and, among other things, told the story of Helen Lane, whose real name was Henrietta Lacks, an American woman who died in 1951 of cancer. Some of her cells were isolated and cultured in the laboratory after her death, and to everyone’s surprise proved far more vigorous than normal, surviving even to this day, and, according to Watson, blithely overriding most anticontamination procedures in order to take over other cultures and even turn up in laboratories in different continents.

In 1981 we wrote a song about all this and called it Helen Lane. Looking on wiki, I see that a couple of other songs have come along since, plus a lot more recognition of the HeLa cell line, as it’s called, and of course recognition of Henrietta herself for providing the cells that have gone on to be used in all sorts of medical research. I hope no-one thinks we’re jumping on a bandwagon, but at the same time, if anyone’s about to put together a compilation of great HeLa songs, perhaps they’ll give this one a listen.

lyrics

11. Helen Lane

Helen Lane, don’t you know that you’re driving me insane?
Your memory linger on,
all over my brain.
You were strong, and your power is
growing all day long.
If Helen Lane gets into you biology,
you can’t go wrong.

Now you’ve gone, there’s a part of
your life still carries on.
Let’s take a look beneath that
perspex covering:
that’s Helen Lane.

Ooh - we scraped some cells off her.
Ooh - and nothing could stop them growing.
Ooh - she lived in America.
Aah - now she’s an international star.

Helen Lane, you’re a smear on a
petri dish, it’s true.
But when people say lebensraum,
they’re thinking of you.
Suddenly, you’ve become
twice the size you used to be,
and you’re the only girl in my laboratory.

It’s plain to see
her culture knows no bounds,
her culture knows no bounds,
her culture knows no bounds,
her culture knows no bounds,
her culture knows no bounds,
her culture knows no bounds.

Ooh, yeah - she lived in America.
Ooh, yeah - now she’s an international star.

Helen Lane, you’re a metaphor
after my own heart.
If Helen Lane gets into your biology,
gets into your laboratory,
gets into your mythology,
you run and hide.

I sow rhythms almost everywhere,
in the ground and in the frozen air.
You can run and you can try to hide,
still this seed will find a way inside.
Every day is like another day,
helpless victims try to tun away.
Nothing yet discovered can contain
all the cells that come from Helen Lane.

credits

from Follow The Gleam, released January 22, 2013
composed by Heneghan & Lawson

Ben Heneghan: vocals, hammond
Ian Lawson: piano, rhodes
Mike Heneghan: bass Andrew Lawson drums
Sylvia Strand: backing vocals
Kat Squire: backing vocals
Elliot Bennett: percussion
Hwyel Maggs: guitar
Dan Jones: guitar
Gethin Liddington: trumpet
Gareth Roberts: trombone
Lee Goodall: alto sax
Osian Roberts: tenor sax

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The Boo-Hooray Theory Cardiff, UK

The Boo-Hoory Theory is led by composers Ben Heneghan and Ian Lawson. The band records and performs original Heneghan & Lawson songs with a 'classic' 11-piece, line up.

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